Local Stories, Events
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Health Care & Environment
02.16 Toxic black snow covers Siberian coalmining region [0:49 video; If its killing us, stop doing it]
02.16 Renewable energy will be world's main power source by 2040, says BP [But in America's capitalistic bubble, bribed-to-be-biased media and government defy reality]
02.16 What the pesticides in our urine tell us about organic food [What does inaction tell us about capitalism and our government?]
02.14 Exposure to Glyphosate-Based Herbicides and Risk for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma: A Meta-Analysis and Supporting Evidence [If its killing us, make it illegal]
02.14 To avoid environmental catastrophe, everything must change [Consider why this headline is laughable or confusing to many, if not most, Americans...]02.13 Study Shows Toxic Pesticide Levels in Families Dropped by 60% After One-Week Organic Diet [2:10 video; Produce and canned vegetables laced with toxic chemicals—from fertilizers and herbicides, too—must be quickly phased out to use safe organic alternatives]
02.11 'People Shouldn't Be Going Bankrupt and Dying': Nationwide Week of Action Aims to Build Mass Movement Behind Medicare for All [Corporate control of government and media must be limited to allow efficient programs for the public good]
02.09 The potato solution: how the Guardian switched to biodegradable packaging [Non-recyclable products should be illegal]
News Media Matters
02.16 We Shouldn't Stick Our Heads In The Sand, But We Do It Anyway [26:46 audio; Fear like Trump & Fox News incite makes us avoid unpleasant information we need to know]
02.15 Samantha Bee: Fox News 'soiling themselves over the Green New Deal' [video clips from Samantha Bee, Seth Meyers and Stephen Colbert]
US Politics, Policy & 'Culture'
02.16 ‘A Parkland every five days’: project tells stories of the children lost to gun violence [What does inaction tell us about capitalism and our government?]
02.16 Rambling Trump calls an emergency in speech that goes on and on and on [1:42 video; an incoherent president just paraphrases lies and distortion from Fox News and Rush Limbaugh...]
02.16 Calling Emergency Declaration a 'Patently Illegal Power Grab,' ACLU Sues Trump [Empathy and fairness are scarce when your President is a psychopath]
02.15 Jayapal Says Medicare for All Bill Coming in Two Weeks as Expert Calls Plan 'Astonishingly Strong' [Corporate control of government and media must be limited to allow efficient programs for the public good]
02.14 Pentagon Fears Climate Crisis, w/ Billions in Damage to US Bases & Societal Upheaval [In maniacally twisted capitalist countries inconvenient truths are ignored or harshly ridiculed, and Trump's stupid Wall obsession dominates the news instead.]
Economics & Corrupting-Capitalism
02.13 The Green New Deal offers radical environmental and economic change [For the survival of life on earth, capitalism must be effectively regulated or banned]
02.12 Climate and economic risks 'threaten 2008-style systemic collapse' [Willfull ignorance of Trump, Republicans, corporate-media and corporate-Democrats is steadfast, if not worsening]
02.11 Trump offers socialism for the rich, capitalism for everyone else [and the poor will die out like the insects]
International & Futurism
02.15 Who Is Really A Socialist? [Who is really a Republican, etc.?]
02.14 House passes bill to end US support for Saudi war in Yemen [Congress does something good again!]
02.14 Millions Flowed From Venezuelan Oil Firm to Small Bulgarian Bank [Transactions like Manafort performed for Trump. Which Venezuelan political leader is likely behind this—Maduro or Trump-supported Guaidó?]
The Embarrassing Republican Friends of Planetary Defense
The obvious problem with the two Republican friends of planetary defense is that they are far from paragons of rational scientism.Is defending the Earth from catastrophic collisions with enormous chunk of cosmic debris an American responsibility? That’s the question The New York Times reporter Warren E. Leary has William Ailor asking at the March 5-8, 2007 Planetary Defense Conference at Georgetown University: “Should one nation, the United States,” queries conference chair Ailor, “be responsible for the entire planet?” The short answer to his question is “yes.” The United States is responsible for protecting the entire planet by detecting and deflecting any killer asteroids or comets heading toward Earth.
The problem with achieving any proportionate cost sharing in this is that defense against catastrophic space debris strikes is an exceedingly pure public good. That’s because the devastation caused by a kilometer-long asteroid smacking the Earth would be planet-wide, and as a consequence detecting and deflecting it would benefit everyone else on the planet just as much as it would Americans. What that means is that there is no way to exclude any country from benefiting from American efforts to provide this public good, even if only for the United States. The result is an open invitation to ‘free ride.”
That the rational pursuit of individual self-interest or national interest undermines cooperation to provide public goods is one of the more frequent observations made by social scientists. That helps to explain why the United States assumed a disproportionately high share of the total military spending among NATO member states during the Cold War and why the British Navy undertook the heavy lifting to suppress the Atlantic slave trade in the 19th century. So although it inevitably results in the sort of complaint expressed in William Ailor’s question, the weak often exploit the strong in international efforts to provide public goods.
Scientific and statistical illiteracy that prevents most Americans from understanding the nature of the threat from cosmic debris.Politics of a different sort was obviously on the minds of many of the presenters at the 2007 Planetary Defense Conference. Comments made during the panel discussion on the last day of the conference reveal frustration about persuading ordinary Americans that the threat is serious and persuading American politicians that more money should be spent on planetary defense. Serious public discussions of doomsday asteroids inevitably encounter giggles that are the result of Hollywood science fiction. Who doesn’t want to forget the execrable 1998 film Armageddon? More important than popular culture is the sort of scientific and statistical illiteracy that prevents most Americans from understanding the nature of the threat. According to Michigan State University political scientist Jon Miller, fewer than 30 percent of American adults can read and understand the science section of The New York Times.
The small number of space science specialists involved in planetary defense ought to be especially alarmed by their friends among elected officials.The small number of space science specialists involved in planetary defense ought to be especially alarmed by their friends among elected officials. Only two were mentioned by the panelists at the 2007 Planetary Defense Conference: California Republican Representative Dana Rohrabacher and Kansas Republican Senator Sam Brownback. Rohrabacher has supported Federal funding for planetary defense, probably because it is a backdoor to develop space war technology. Brownback has merely suggested holding hearings on planetary defense. The obvious problem with both of these Republican friends of planetary defense is that they are far from paragons of rational scientism. Rohrabacher has expressed skepticism about the anthropocentric causes of current climate change and even suggested that dinosaur flatulence might have played a role in previous warming episodes. Brownback is on record supporting theistic challenges to Darwinian evolution.
The planetary defense crowd desperately needs some new, less embarrassing friends on Capitol Hill.
John Hickman is associate professor of comparative politics at Berry College in Rome, Georgia. His published work on electoral politics, media, and international affairs has appeared in Asian Perspective, American Politics Research, Comparative State Politics, Contemporary South Asia, Contemporary Strategy, Current Politics and Economics of Asia, East European Quarterly, Journal of Southern Europe and the Balkans, Jouvert, Legislative Studies Quarterly, Political Science, Review of Religious Research, Women & Politics, and Yamanashigakuin Law Review. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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This story was published on March 15, 2007.